NASA fits foam plugs inside of booster rockets to protect the innards ahead of ignition. And boy, they sure do put on a show when they’re blown out with 4.1 million kilograms of thrust.
This video, taken on June 28 at Orbital ATK’s test facilities in Promontory, Utah, shows a test of NASA’s new booster, the Space Launch System. Once this beast of a rocket is ready for prime time it will take us to Mars and beyond. At full throttle, it exerts 4.1 million kilograms of thrust, which is more than 34 times the total thrust of a 747 jet.
To prevent heat, dust and moisture from getting inside a booster before it ignites, engineers install a foam plug at the nozzle. It’s designed to fall apart during ignition, and NASA scientists want to know how their latest, denser foam design is working out.
During this successful two-minute test of the SLS, temperatures reached around 3300C. Following the test, some bits of foam were found as far as 450m to 600m away from the nozzle. The smoky ring that you see coming off the booster is condensed water vapour generated by the pressure difference between the motor gas and normal air.
Should all go well, NASA plans to send an uncrewed flight of the SLS with the Orion spacecraft some time in 2018. We can’t wait.